Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School, Koliagbe, Guinea
Centre Avicole Kahere
Completed in 2000
The remarkable story of the Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School began in the early 1980s, when Alpha Diallo, a Guinean agronomist, and his uncle Bachir Diallo, a veterinarian, formed the idea of establishing a poultry farm to help improve the Guinean diet. Both men earned scholarships to study in Europe and while Alpha was in Hungary he developed an interest in the Finnish language, which is related to Hungarian. As a result he translated the Finnish epic poem The Kalevala into Fulani, and visited Finland, where he met Eila Kivekäs.
When Alpha died suddenly in Finland in 1984, Kivekäs arranged for his body to be returned to his home. Soon afterwards, Bachir, then in Canada, received a phone call from Kivekäs: she proposed that he return to Koliagbe near Kindia, a town 120 kilometres inland from the coast of Guinea, and create, with her support, the poultry project that Alpha had discussed with her. The farm was started in 1986, and in 1989 Kivekäs founded a development association called Indigo, which went into partnership with the poultry farm. From the farm's inception, education was one of its primary missions. In 1997, when the facilities could no longer accommodate the volume of students and trainees, Kivekäs proposed to Bachir that school facilities be provided near the main part of the farm. To build the school she commissioned the Finnish firm of architects, Heikkinen-Komonen, who had worked on earlier Indigo projects, translating Finnish structural ideas to local craft conditions.
In the areas around Kindia, the oldest form of dwelling is a round structure with a conical, thatched roof. Three variants on this type, each with a distinct function, are grouped around an open space, usually with a large tree in the centre, which is the site for household activities such as food preparation and laundry. The most common material for walls remains earth-bricks fired in local kilns. The quality of the finished material is poor, and a considerable amount of wood is required for firing.
For the new complex, three main areas were required: a classroom, student quarters for up to twelve people, and teachers' quarters. In the tradition of local dwellings, these are organized around a courtyard, at the centre of which is a tree. The plan is based on a 1.2-metre grid, which imparts a simple but formal elegance to the architecture.
The architects introduced wood-frame technology in combination with weight-bearing walls made from a double layer of specially developed, stabilized earth-blocks. These blocks dispense with the need for firing, helping to conserve resources. They also act as heat collectors, moderating room temperature, and their hard, smooth finish means that they do not need rendering. The wider span of the classroom is covered with the aid of simple metal trusses combined with the wooden beams. The tallest columns, those of the classroom porch, are made of four posts fastened by intermediate wooden blocks and steel bolts, an economical way of overcoming a shortage of long pieces of hardwood. All primary materials were sourced locally.
The significance of introducing new building techniques is best illustrated by the example of the school's head mason. After training in the stabilized earth-block technique, he has gone on to use the blocks in private houses, small industrial installations and even a mosque, which has helped boost the area's production of the blocks.
The Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School is a rare example of architecture that bridges distinct cultures and building methods while maintaining the local characteristics of its context. The humble yet elegant design combines the timber structures typical of Finland's native architecture with local materials, improved by simple technological advances.
This project has received an Award because it draws on traditional local planning relationships, with a courtyard dominated by a central tree articulating teaching and accommodation spaces. The complex is adjusted to the conditions of the tropical climate: technologies are simple, including locally made stabilized earth-blocks, woven split-cane panel ceilings, and pigmented concrete floors and roof tiles. Sophisticated structural elements - columns and trusses - are made of composite timber and metal, strengthening the materials available to local craftsmen. The architecture uses a deceptively simple language and is distinguished by clarity of form and appropriateness of scale. The solution is a fine example of an elegantly humble yet modern architecture that successfully crosses the boundaries of local Guinean and Nordic traditions and, in the process, avoids mimicry.
Eila Kivekäs, Indigo Foundation.
Centre Avicole Kahere-Bachir Diallo, Director.
Heikkinen-Komonen Architects - Mikko Heikkinen and Marku Komonen, Partners in Charge; Ville Venermo, Site Manager.
Boubakar Barry, Civil Engineer.
Abdulhaye Djiby Sow, Master Mason; Suleymane Saouré, Master Carpenter; Moustapha Souaré, Master Tile Maker.
Site Area: 3,800m2
Built Area: 340m2
Cost: GNF 153,373,000 (USD 104,000)
Occupancy: January 2000
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